Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a

This is another of those iconic aircraft. The Me 262 was the first operational jet fighter in the world. It was a design of great, if ultimately unrealized potential.

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Let’s look at one of the revolutionary aircraft of World War II.

Both the engine and airframe design of Willie Messerschmitt’s Me 262 were ahead of their time.  The swept wing allowed for higher speeds and was an innovative feature.  This would become a common design during the Cold War, but it is pointedly uncommon during World War II.

Now that just LOOKS menacing!  4 x 30 mm cannon up front.

Now that just LOOKS menacing! 4 x 30 mm cannon up front.

But the jet engines are what were most revolutionary.  Turbo jet engines generate more power and less drag than piston engines ever can.  Great Britain, the US and Japan were also working on such engines.  But Germany, because of the desperate straits they found themselves in by late 1943, pushed the technology forward much faster than anyone else.  Arguably it wasn’t ready for operational deployment.  The early jet engines like the Jumo 004 used here were very troublesome.  And Germany lacked the metallurgic development and resources to make this work.  Engine life was typically around 20 hours.  Only a desperate combatant would consider such a weapon combat ready.

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And the type’s combat record is about exactly what we would expect.  It was very dangerous in the air, easily 80 knots faster than any allied type.  That kind of speed difference let jet pilots engage or break off at will, and they could often dive through a bomber formation with impunity.  But serviceability was low.  It was very difficult to put up more than a few aircraft at a time.  And apart from the scare factor involved there was little chance of affecting the course of the air war.  It entered service too late, in small numbers, against an over-whelming enemy.

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This example is in the markings of Heinz Bar, a top ranking ace with 220 kills.  He was among the early aces assigned to a jet unit to develop tactics and flight test the design.  Bar is believed to have scored his last 20 kills in the Me 262.  I took some liberties with these colors.  The plane is well enough photographed, but only in black and white.  Early in the production of the Me 262 the factory color scheme was changed; from the mid-war grey scheme to a late war green/brown camo. Think of it as switching from an air superiority scheme for a hiding in the trees scheme. Given that Bar was an early adopter of the type, and any ace with over 200 kills is a predator; I chose the early grey colors, which goes against convention for this aircraft.  This is the Tamiya kit, and it was a total blast to build.

Heinz Bar is, uh… maybe the guy in the flight suit?

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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12 Responses to Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a

  1. Theresa says:

    This plane caused a revolution in the War. Too bad it was brought out way too late to affect the outcome.

    • atcDave says:

      Dang girl, you’re fast!

      I don’t know that I’d call that “too bad”! I’m pretty glad it didn’t have a bigger impact!

      No doubt it had a huge impact on post-war aircraft design. But it had some huge engineering issues as well. I remember reading a quote from Adolf Galland, who was in the unique position of having commanded both an Me 262 force, and a Gloster Meteor force (post-war, Argentine Air Force). He said that the Meteor was really a much better airplane. The 262 was faster, but it was so unreliable and had so many maintenance problems it was not a practical weapon.
      I know I’ve been to two air shows where a 262 was supposed to fly (new builds, with modern engines), and both times they canceled for mechanical reasons.

  2. Love it! I am a sucker for WWII German aircraft.

  3. Tom Hart says:

    Great detail on the model. There are many great lessons to learn from WWII and I applaud your interest.

  4. Brian Malley says:

    I know this is very subjective, but in my opinion the Me-262 was the most beautiful airplane every built prior to the F-22 Raptor. The Me-262 has always stood out to me because of its exceptionally clean lines and pleasing shape. Not that that is of much historical interest per se, but it has always made an impression on me.

    • atcDave says:

      Hey Brian! Well I wouldn’t really argue with you on either count; it is subjective, and I agree its beautiful! Although part of what’s fueled my passion is that I find so many aircraft from this era beautiful, sometimes even the ugly ones.
      The 262 may stand out to me as the most beautiful German aircraft of the war. But the Mustang, Flying Fortress, P-36, Dauntless, Spitfire, Zero… Well you get the point.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      P-38 Lightning is an awesome looking airplane.

      • atcDave says:

        Hey I’m partial to anything with propellers! But yeah, I love the Lightning. That Yankee Air Museum P-38 I posted a couple months ago is one I also did in 1/48th, and presented the build to the original pilot.

  5. Pingback: Gloster Meteor Mk I | Plane Dave

  6. Pingback: Messerschmitt Me262A-1a | Plane Dave

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